If you have been following us, you may have noticed we have covered many topics to do with digital spaces, best practices, accessibility and suggestions for using different Apps, software and services. Last week, we looked at Microsoft Yammer and we continue this week with MS Whiteboard.

So what is a whiteboard? What can it be used for? And how can it help with learning in education? If you would like to know some of these answers, please read on. Let’s get started!

What is MS Whiteboard?

Think of MS Whiteboard as a chalkboard or large flip chart where one can write freestyle in any colour of ‘pen’. It’s a page or a blank canvas that can be used to demonstrate formula, to make lists for and against an argument and for a group of people to work together to generate ideas, solve problems and tease out information.

Better yet, those using Whiteboards don’t need to be in the same location. Remote contributors can collaborate on the Whiteboard within a Teams meeting or if they have a Whiteboard share link, individuals can write on the Whiteboard asynchronously. This allows students to still collaborate albeit not in real-time.

How can Whiteboard be used?

No matter what your discipline, teachers and students can use MS Whiteboard to teach and learn. Along with this, MS Whiteboard provide some templates, albeit these do not work on the web version (but are part of the roadmap, so it’s ahead of us) but the templates are available in the App. The following templates (and more) are available:

  • Project planning
  • Brainstorming
  • Problem solving
  • Effective meeting
  • SWOT analysis
  • Weekly planner 
  • Project milestones
  • KWL (Know, Wonder, Learn) for Education
  • Empathy map 
  • Persona builder 

Whilst the majority of templates are business and marketing orientated, these templates can be used in education. Students will be doing projects and will need to brainstorm / problem solve during these activities. So the majority of these templates are very useful indeed.

But it’s not all about writing on a Whiteboard. Yes, we can write or type onto the Whiteboard using the keyboard or stylus on a tablet. Using a pen on screen makes ink markings appear and dragging your fingers on screen makes the canvas pan. Just to point out, there’s also finger painting available when that option is on.

Finger painting on the Whiteboard

When finger paint mode is activated, touching the screen will draw or add ink on your Whiteboard canvas. Colours can be chosen from many colour options and different types of pen, highlighters and erasers. The appropriate tool(s) can be chosen in the App.

Hand-drawn shapes can change to precise shapes by using the optional Ink to Shape feature (in the Settings). When Ink to Shape is on, drawing a circle or square automatically changes to that precise shape on the whiteboard. This works well for triangles, squares, rectangles, circles, pentagons, hexagons and rhombuses. Additionally, that makes flowchart creation easier to construct.

Manipulating Information

Whiteboard for the web currently supports the following features:

  • Create / join boards
  • Add / edit
    • sticky notes
    • text objects
    • ink
  • Select / move objects 
  • View images added by native clients

When boards are joined and sticky notes or text objects are available, these can be amended or added to and objects can be selected, moved and/or deleted. Information can be created or changed on any board if editing rights are given to contributors of that board.

To get more of a feel about how Whiteboard looks and feels, both on the web and in App, watch this YouTube video on How to use Microsoft Whiteboard:

How to use Microsoft Whiteboard
How can we use Whiteboard?

MS Whiteboard can be used on computers and mobile devices (phones and tablets). For iOS devices, download Whiteboard from the App Store (this can be used on the following or later devices: Apple iOS 9, iPhone 5s , iPad Mini 3 , iPad Air or iPad Pro). Once installed, sign into Whiteboard for the web with a Microsoft 365 account (for work, school or personal use) or sign in with a free MS account (by using Outlook, Live, Xbox, Hotmail, etc.).

As MS Whiteboard is available on a variety of platforms, teachers and students can use the Whiteboard for a variety of uses, either individually or collaboratively. Students are not disadvantaged by the device they use and as long as they are internet connected and signed into Microsoft, they can collaborate.

The Whiteboard uses a mix of text, drawing, shapes, sticky notes, images, etc., which can be added to or altered by learners. Sticky notes can be colour coded, as can text and ink markings.

Teaching with Whiteboard

No matter what you teach, Whiteboard can be used to map out and draw attention to specific concepts and key points of learning. Teaching whilst using Whiteboards can be considered non-linear and teachers have the flexibility to change the direction of lessons depending on live-conversations and where those talks take learners.

Using the Whiteboard as a teacher, allows you to be more creative and visual in your teaching delivery. It’s not just chalk and talk,. You as the teacher, can add in formula, diagrams, illustration using different coloured pens and by using the laser, you can highlight key concepts during your delivery whilst showing the processes of the subject.

In photography, that might be showing the relationships of the items within the Exposure Triangle and how these three things be used together to take exposure prefect images with consideration given to controlling depth of field and movement.

MS Whiteboard has made it easier to upload digitized worksheets to the Whiteboard. Teachers can add their content to the Whiteboard, then open it in Teams for students to contribute. This is the most likely use of Whiteboard, in MS Teams. If using MS Whiteboard in MS Teams, this is Whiteboard on the web and it’s not as feature rich as the downloadable App. However, there are live-cursor IDs so teachers can see who is actively engaging and who the quieter students are. This might be a way of identifying those whom need additional help. 

Other uses

Other Whiteboard uses include:

  • Images for labeling can be uploaded to Whiteboard and a copy of the Whiteboard saved and shared with students. This could be a good way to test their knowledge.
  • Students can insert images onto Whiteboards to create a mood or ideas board. This is great for generating ideas and thoughts around a theme. Collecting thoughts.
  • Copies of the Whiteboard can be used for study / revision / annotation purposes.
  • Using stickers to be dragged and dropped on images, i.e., labeling organs within a body
  • Annotating maps to show:
    • how currents work
    • routes of ships / planes, etc.
Whiteboard updates

Well, MS Whiteboard got an overhaul for a new look and feel. The new interface looks intuitive, more updated and offers more options, as can be seen in this video:

MS Whiteboard – A modern look and feel

You can also get more updates from Microsoft. We know the Microsoft offering is always improving, so if you’ve not yet seen the new Whiteboard experience, it’s on its way.

Does MS Whiteboard have disadvantages?

By itself, there is no voice annotation or recording features. However, this is a non-issue when used with MS Teams.

Some of the MS Whiteboard features are available in the Apps but not on the web so there’s some limitations. Web users are more disadvantaged than touch-screen users when it comes to drawing shapes and drawing freehand.

When using Whiteboard remotely, there is a time lag in writing / moving the Canvas. This maybe isn’t such a big issue but it is noticeable for students sitting in lecture theaters during hybrid teaching sessions, i.e., face-to-face and remote learning for those who cannot come to campus for whatever reason. It was felt that larger drawings also add to the time lag and made it more noticeable.

Some users felt there was a lack of pen / colour options but hopefully this has been resolved with the new look MS Whiteboard.

A finishing note…

MS Whiteboard content can be easily read by screen readers. As long as the Whiteboard author uses ALT text for all the content. Authors can check and make sure they included all ALT text by running an Accessibility Check which is found within the Settings menu.

Next time

We will be taking a break from blogging next week but will be back the first Monday in October.

Remember, the DigiKnow blog posts are released at noon on a Monday.

Please do join us then to learn more and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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